2015 Year in Review – Big Time Tennis

Our 8th year in business, 2015 was another great year for Big Time Tennis, many thanks to our individual customers, the Wake Forest University men’s and club tennis teams, and opportunities to string at some big tournaments.

Stringer of the Year Plaque

The year started in a very special way, with David being named Tennis Industry Magazine’s “Stringer of the Year” for 2014. To make it even more special, Wake Forest tennis alum David Hopkins accepted the award on David’s behalf.

Hopkins Accepts SOY Plaque

Although we did not match our record number of rackets (reached in 2013), we nearly crossed the 2,000 threshold thanks to steady work form the Wake Forest men’s team (almost 900 rackets) and the opportunity to string some new tournaments:

  • 2015: 1,974
  • 2014: 1,759
  • 2013: 2,149
  • 2012: 1,467
  • 2011: 1,265
  • 2010: 1,171
  • 2009:   750
  • 2008:   251

The Wake Forest men had an outstanding year, and I (David) was excited to be a part of it, including spending nearly two rainy weeks in Waco, Texas at Baylor University working on the MOZI Tennis stringing team.

Mozi Tennis

It was fun to work the tournament on site because I could also see Wake Forest play in the Sweet Sixteen (losing to TCU, alas) and Noah Rubin make his run to the men’s singles final.

WF Team at Baylor Stadium

Selfie delivering rackets to the NCAA men's singles finalist

Selfie delivering rackets to the NCAA men’s singles finalist

Almost immediately after getting home from Waco, the ITF Pro Circuit Futures of Winston-Salem began. I had never strung a Pro Circuit event, and I found it very fascinating, posting a number of blogs about it. Of course we treat all players equally in the stringing room, but with only one customer playing in the final, I was able to support Matija Pecotic, who brought home the championship trophy.

Pecotic

Thanks again to MOZI Tennis, I had the chance to string at the ATP World Tour/WTA Tour CitiOpen in Washington, DC. A highlight was having the chance to string one more racket for the Australian stalwart player and Grand Slam Champion Lleyton Hewitt.

Hewitt Racket

The Yamane family made a big contribution to the MOZI Tennis stringing team at our home town Winston-Salem Open. We even got to meet “The Magician,” Fabrice Santoro who was there coaching. Tournament stringing can be exhausting and stressful, but it is made much easier when you have a great boss, Dustin Tankersley, and get to work with your loved ones.

WSO 201520150820_112351

A final highlight of the year was having the opportunity to string rackets for all of the members of the Mount Tabor High School Girls Tennis Team. I am thankful that their coach, Taylor McDaniel, appreciates the importance of strings to performance. It is the only part of the racket that is supposed to touch the ball after all!

Mount Tabor Rackets

It’s hard to imagine 2016 being as great as 2015, but we are hoping to have the opportunity to exceed our own expectations.

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Stringing Report from 2015 NCAA Division 1 Tennis Championships

As noted previously (here and here), I recently spent 2 weeks as one of the official on-site stringers for the NCAA tennis tournament at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Although we had some competition from off-site stringers who aggressively solicited business away from us, the four members of the MOZI Tennis team still strung several hundred rackets. This included the women’s doubles champions from Alabama, and the men’s singles, women’s singles, and men’s doubles finalists (from Wake Forest, Stanford, and Texas).

Selfie delivering rackets to the NCAA men's singles finalist

Selfie delivering rackets to the NCAA men’s singles finalist

I personally worked on rackets for 49 different players from 27 teams. This included 18 women from 12 teams and 31 men from 15 teams. Although this is not a random sample of all players in the tournament, it is a fairly diverse group of players.

For these 49 rackets, the string tensions I observed were:

  • Overall: 43 pounds to 63 pounds
  • Men: 43 pounds to 59 pounds
  • Women: 46 pounds to 63 pounds
  • Overall average: 53.3 pounds
  • Men’s average: 52.25 pounds
  • Women’s average: 55.2 pounds

I find it interesting that even though men can generate more power on their own than women, women tend to string tighter than men. Part of this may be due to women generally using more open string patterns than men, but it is also the case that each player develops their own feeling for the optimal string tension for their particular racket and game. To wit: the highest recorded tension in our stringing room was 69 pound mains and 68 pound crosses.

Head Speed with RPM

Almost all of the players, men and women, used all polyester monofilament strings – 44 of 49 players. 4 players used hybrid stringing (monofilament mains and synthetic gut/multifilament crosses), and 1 player used all multifilament string.

A few string brands were most common:

  1. Luxilon – 31%
  2. Solinco – 20%
  3. Babolat – 16%
  4. Pacific – 12%
  5. Wilson – 6%
  6. Prince, Tecnifibre – 4%
  7. Head, Kirschbaum, Pros Pro – 2%

Pacific was overrepresented because I strung all of the rackets for Wake Forest men’s tennis team which has an agreement with Pacific.

NCAA Rackets

Racket brands are even more concentrated than string brands:

  1. Babolat – 41%
  2. Wilson – 29%
  3. Head – 24%
  4. Dunlop, Prince, Tecnifibre – 2%

An amazing 94% of players used one of three brands.

Stringing at NCAA Division 1 Tennis Tournament in Waco, Texas, Hosted by Baylor University

I have strung rackets at the NCAA Division 1 tennis tournament on three previous occasions, in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Each time the tournament was held at the University of Georgia in Athens, so I would drive down two days before the start of the event and leave before the quarterfinals of the team competition were contested. Basically just working 3-4 of the busiest days of the event.

In Athens, I was an unofficial off-site stringer working for the team stringer for another ACC school. That meant I was holed up in a hotel miles from the University of Georgia tennis complex. In the three years I worked the event, I only saw a couple of matches — and had to pay to see those to boot.

15MW1_TEN_CHAMP_HOST_VP

This year was very different. I was hired by my friend Dustin Tankersley whose company, MOZI Tennis, won the contract to be the official on-site stringer for the tournament.

Official Stringer NCAA 2015

The stringing room was in the press box of Baylor University’s softball stadium. It wasn’t an ideal location, since players and coaches didn’t know where to go for stringing, but it had plenty of windows and a nice view, which was a huge improvement over stringing in a hotel room off-site.

View of Getterman Field at Baylor NCAA 2015

From the hallway leading to the press box, we could look out over Baylor’s incredible outdoor tennis complex. We could only partially see matches on court, but we could keep track generally of what was going on court. This was especially important this week because Waco experienced a tremendous amount of rain.

Rainy Courts

Being on-site was also a particular bonus for me this year because Wake Forest’s men’s team qualified for the Sweet Sixteen, and Noah Rubin, Romain Bogaerts, Skander Mansouri, and Christian Seraphim all competed in the individual tournament. It was easy for me to sneak away from the stringing room to catch the Wake matches, including Noah Rubin’s history run to the men’s singles final.

WF Team at Baylor Stadium

A final benefit of working for Dustin was the opportunity to work alongside other stringers whose professionalism is unquestionable. Dustin is a member of the Wilson/Luxilon International Stringing Team, and has strung at the U.S. Open, Australian Open, China Open, and other major tournaments. Also on the team were two other Wilson stringing team members, Joe Heydt and Todd Mobley. Joe owns Racket Corner in Omaha, Nebraska, and Todd owns Stadium Tennis in the Atlanta area, is the Captain of the Wilson stringing team, and was the 2009 Tennis Industry Magazine Stringer of the Year.

But enough about me. In my next posts I will review the strings and tensions we saw most commonly in the tournament, and then I will reflect on some lessons to be learned from stringing this sort of tournament.

Reporting from the 2015 NCAA Division 1 Tennis Championships

I am wrapping up a 13 day trip to Waco, Texas for the 2015 NCAA Division 1 Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships hosted by Baylor University.

The structure of the NCAA tennis championships is interesting. 64 teams make the tournament, with the first two rounds hosted by the top 16 seeds. So, for example, Wake Forest was the #12 seed, and hosted a regional with Florida, George Washington, and Pepperdine.

Wake Forest NCAA Regional

Wake Forest beat George Washington in the first round, then Pepperdine (who beat Florida) in the second round. Wake Forest then headed to Waco where the final four rounds of the team event were contested. (Alas, losing to Texas Christian University in the Sweet 16, who then beat North Carolina to make it to the Final Four.)

Wake Team at NCAA Regional

So the tournament in Waco begins with 16 men’s and 16 women’s teams, competing from Thursday through the following Tuesday when the national championships are decided. This year, the University of Virginia defeated the University of Oklahoma in the men’s final and Vanderbilt beat UCLA in the women’s final.

As if that were not enough tennis, on Wednesday, the INDIVIDUAL singles championships begin with 64 person draws for both men and women, and on Thursday the individual DOUBLES championships begin with 32 team draws for both men and women. The singles and doubles champions will be crowned on Monday.

And in case you missed it, for the first time ever, a Wake Forest player is competing for the national championships. Noah Rubin is looking to add to the honors he has already won this year, which include ACC Rookie of the Year, ACC Player of the Year, and ITA National Rookie of the Year.

Noah Rubin

That is a lot of tennis over a little less than two weeks, both for spectators and for players. Consider someone like Virginia’s Ryan Shane. Playing #1 for the team, he competed in 4 singles matches and four doubles matches (albeit 8 game pro sets) in winning the team title. Tomorrow against Noah Rubin he will play in his 6th singles match in the individual competition’s quarterfinal round. And he played in – but lost – a doubles match in the individual competition.

Of course, a lot of tennis means a lot of rackets to be strung, which after all is the main reason I am here. More on that in my next post. Stay tuned!